Sir,—May I comment an the subject of seminary discipline mentioned in the very interesting article about priestly training in the CATHOLIC HERALD of the 23rd October.
It appears to be the case that the Church's authorities in this country want to instil obedience in their priests above all other virtues.
Hence the seminarian's life is thoroughly ordered for him by, example, the incessant ringing ofi a bell which tells him when to go to sleep, when to get up, when to study, to cat, to pray, to talk, to stop talking, to smoke and stop smoking and to attend lectures.
He is told when he may go out and with how many others and of what seniority and by what means; at prayer he is told when to stand, to sit, to kneel and for how long and where. In this way, personal initiative is curbed. one might say, stunted, smoothly but relentlessly.
I am not decrying obedience, On the contrary, 1 know it is quite necessary for the well-being of society, let alone its being a Christian virtue, What is in question is the value of the type of obedience this system would, in theory, tend to produce.
When a man is required to suppress his reason, at times even his common sense, in order to obey, these faculties atrophy and after many years of the treatment his outlook becomes narrow and the tenor of his behaviour is one of reflexes to external orders.
Certainly, the system should produce excellent cogs in the clerical machine for efficiently implementing the orders of authority. But is this really the kind of priesthood that the modern world requires? Might not such a training he the main reason why, in practice, the Church. in her missionary capacity in this country, seems to he so completely out of contact with the people.
What is required, surely, is the priest who goes out to meet his priestly task in the world positively, and creatively in the spirit of obedience and not relying solely on constant reference to precedent and the exact performing of orders from above.
Many business concerns and other lay groups are on the way to solving how to hold the subtle balance between obedience and personal responsibility. Perhaps the Church's authorities have something to learn from their lay brothers in this matter. But first, they must acknowledge the problem.
Safe Period Sir,-1 would like to say "thankyou" to Dr, John Marshall .for his excellent piece about the Temperature-Safe Period Method. It was a most clear and helpful article and I would have been glad to have seen alongside it, a list of all C.M.A.C. places throughout the country, giving all details. for the many people who want to follow up Dr. Marshall's informasloe by going to see a C.M.A.C. doctor personally.
It seems to me a pity however, that the moral attitudes of the C.M.A.C. are so much more outof-date than their medical practise. Most C.M.A.C, Counsellors and doctors I have spoken to do not seem to have caught up with the present state of the moral debate at all. They seem to accept as unchangeable dogma, many of the things that Cardinal Alfrink and others have questioned in the Vatieme Council.
(Mrs.) T. 3. Wicker, Birmingham.
Pope Paul, however, has said that he sees no reason as yet for a doctrinal change, and theologians are still insisting that arty developments must be "in line with" traditional teaching. See also Cardinal Suenens' clarification on Page 1.—
Marriages Sits—It was only on my return from a short holiday that I saw in your columns the letter on Mixed Marriages signed by J. Lancing and in view of the final remarks it contained i.e. that it was most difficult for Catholics wishing to make a Catholic marriage to meet Catholics of the opposite sex, I would remind the writer that it was the realisation of this difficulty that caused the formation of the Catholic Introductions Bureau some 15 years ago. It was founded with the approval of Cardinal Griffin for the express purpose of introducing Catholic men and women to each other with a view to possible marriage. The need for such an organisation is shown by the number of men and women of all grades of education and position who apply for its services, and its success is demonstrated by the fact that the number of Catholic marriages known to have taken place through introductions made by the Bureau is now reaching the 800 mark, while there must he hundreds more that have riot been no ti tied.
Therefore, though naturally no promise of success can be given, the Bureau would be happy to try and help any more Catholic men and women who are finding it difficult to make Catholic marriages if they would like to contact this office.
Barbara Oddie, Secretary, 9 Belgrave Road, S.W.1.
Sir,—The debate on seminary training has not so far become acrimorhous but in the event I should like to restore the balance by handing out some welldeserved praise. The name of Fr. Charles Davis is increasingly in the news these days.
I had the privilege of studying under him for four years and I know many would wish to join me in expressing admiration and gratitude for his efforts. (Some, I pow, would have preferred to admire him at a distance!).
No one could deny that he was abreast of contemporary movements in theology and, for what it is worth, I should say he was healthily modern. 1 use the word healthily advisedly because there are many writing today who are modern but who cannot be so without denigrating much in Catholic tradition, Fr. Davis always seemed to find it possible to put forward new emphases without being rude about those who have held different views. He might reject their views with some vehemence hut he was slow to impugn their good faith or virtue.
I might add that his attitude to the authorities in the Church was impeccable. If there are any wild ideas or rebel attitudes in the Westminster diocese they most certainly do not take their origin from Fr. Davis.
This brings me .to another point. One cannot help observing a note of anger and impatience in much that is written on Church affairs today. One does not doubt the competence, in their own field, or these writers (one thinks especially of the laymen) but do they really know enough theology to justify them putting pen to paper in such an outspoken way?
I mean do they have a sound theological training? Do they know the general principles? Reading. even exhaustively, the works of the latest avant-garde theologians is no substitute for this. To judge what these are saying requires some kind of standard. Possessing this one can, like Fr. Davis, speak and write serenely. Lacking it. one risks imbalance if not error.
Old Edmund ian.
S1R,—Mr. Hugh Kay's letter is very much to the point. Having attended many lectures on various religious subjects I gladly availed myself of the opportunity of attending the lectures on the existence of God at present given at Westminster Cathedral, Although — as we were told at the heginning — no expense has been spared to bring the best lecturers, it is in my opinion a pity that they appeal to only a small minority of the more educated laity. lf they are intended to reach the rank and file, they fail in their objective because their level is too academic,
It seems to me that we are losing ourselves in clever theological arguments and have wandered far from the Source of Revelation. A return to the Bible, a study of the life of Christ and how what He said and did can he applied to our lives in the twentieth century would he more likely to have the desired effect of reaching the masses.
A non-Catholic friend once attended a Catholic lecture and said to me afterwards: it was very clever, we heard all about the Fathers but nothing about Christ. Where does He come in? 1 am very much inclined to agree with him.
(Miss) H. Langerak
Ecumenism by Air Sir,—An ecumenical air pilgrimagts to Rome is being arranged for June 12th to 20th, 1965, This includes the feast of Corpus Christi. It is hoped that Catholics, Anglicans arid members of the Free Churches will take part, The cost will be 46 guineas.
The arrangements are in the hands of Spes Travel Ltd., U.K. Delegate Office for Peregrinatio Romano. ad Petri Sedem Rome, but those who would like to join the pilgrimage are asked to send their names to the undersigned (envelopes to be marked "Pilgrimage"); they will receive fuller details later.
Visits will be made to the various places of interest. in Rome, and it is expected that these will be a papal audience.
• (Rev. Dr.) Hubert S. Box, Bexhill-on-Sea.
ServiCe in parishes Sits—May L ask your indulgence to add a footnote to my recent letter and say, as 1 should have said then, that, since my husband's death, I have been the recipient of many kindnesses from my fellow parishioners, both in their private and their professional capacities? I have been given, moreover, unfailing help and support from my parish priest.
But this in no way undermines my general argument that our parochial organisations are excellently suited to lead the way in the formation of a "family-service organisation". as suggested in your issue of October 23rd, to deal with crosses such as that which recently faced me.
Confirmation Sire—Having recentiy had the benefit of attending a parish Confirmation I feel that I have discovered a possible further reason for the general apathy of so many Catholics at Mass and in the ap-ostolate.
This sacrament, which enlightened circles term the "Sacrament of Responsibility", is intended, like the other sacraments, to be an encounter with Christ. It is supposed to be an encounter where the individual receives a mandate from Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit to assist him in the duties which he is to perform. It is also the time to make for ourselves the promises previously made on our behalf at Baptism.
Regrettably the Sacrament was administered to rows of little children who had no idea of Christian responsibility and no idea of what the Sacrament really meant, I doubt if any one of them would have understood the words uttered by the Bishop even had they been in English, and the profound words of his address fell. I am afraid, on an unreceptive audience.
I fail to see how any child under the age of about ten or eleven can possibly give a free and responsible assent to this Sacrament Or to have any conception of what it demands as a response. Under the present arrangement the ministration of the Sacrament seems to he in a truncated form and the candidates (even adults) passive receptors only.
This, of course, is quite in keeping with our present Mass in which the meal of thanksgiving and the essential sharing of the Lords Supper have been obliterated by the aspect of sacrifice resulting in a truncated form of the service in which the laity are passive spectators to the detriment of coo collective social conscience and love of each other.
The Church will never reach maturity in. this country so long as the Sacraments are administered in an immature way. Thank God the Vatican Council is dealing with the Mass and the language problem — is it too much to hope that they might restore the Sacrament of Responsibility to its rightful position?
M. J. Nightingale,